N. Carolina Colleges Ponder NFL Impact
WHILE many North Carolinians are dizzy with delight over last week's selection of Charlotte as a National Football League expansion city, not everybody in the state is quite so euphoric. College athletic administrators are understandably concerned.
Said North Carolina State athletic director Todd Turner of pro football's 1995 invasion: ``It's almost undeniable that it will have a negative impact on college athletics, both financially and in terms of popularity.''
Georgia Tech is viewed by some as a case study. Tech attendance dropped off steadily after the NFL's Falcons began playing in Atlanta in 1966. Homer Rice, the school's athletic director, says that Tech now gets ``very few pure fans who will come in off the street.'' Translation: Market to those with school connections.
But all is not lost, judging from an analogous situation in Indiana. The NFL's Colts came to Indianapolis in 1984, a move that created an additional obstacle for selling football tickets at the two major state universities, Purdue and Indiana. Even before the Colts, Indiana's Big Ten schools were faced with in-state competition from Notre Dame, as well as from two NFL teams just over the border - Chicago and Cincinnati. Purdue has seen a drop-off in attendance since the Colts, but that may be more the result of its declining performance. Indiana has detected no significant change during the same period. Soccer's elusive season
One of the major challenges soccer has in establishing its identity in the United States may stem from confusion over when the game should be played. Is it a fall sport, a spring sport, or both? Colleges have hedged on this question. National Collegiate Athletic Association rules say there can be 22 games during the school year, with no more than 20 in the fall or five in the spring.
According to USA Today, however, many coaches are unhappy with this and would prefer two equal seasons of 12-to-15 games. That would space out the games, allowing for more preparation. This, in turn, could help the US close the skills gap with the rest of the world. In Europe, the pro season runs from August through April. Late-night college basketball
When preseason college basketball began over the weekend, the Universities of Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts were among those that couldn't wait to begin. Their opening sessions, known as ``Midnight Madness,'' are part of a trend toward celebratory, late-night starts. The teams commenced drills - before large crowds - the first legal moment National Collegiate Athletic Association rules allowed them on Saturday. At Kentucky, students began lining up Friday afternoon to attend the preliminaries to the player introductions, a few drills, and a scrimmage. Perspective on World Cup elimination
From a security standpoint, US officials entrusted with hosting next year's World Cup soccer tournament must be relieved by the elimination, in qualifying play, of Iraq. Iraq could have put the US State Department in the awkward position of issuing visas to Iraqi players despite the political tension between the two countries. Security concerns might ease further if England, which is all but eliminated, fails to qualify. English soccer fans have a reputation for being among the sport's most disruptive. Baseball playoffs to expand
Baseball purists may cringe next year as the major leagues move further away from old-time pennant races. The number of teams in the postseason will jump from four to eight as the American and National League playoffs include a ``wild card'' team in the newly configured three-division leagues. In one way, this flies in the face of tradition. Yet as Jim Fregosi, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, implies, the higher proportion of teams represented is a throwback. ``Years ago,'' he says, ``there were 16 clubs. Now we have 28. Soon it'll be 30. I think it's important for more clubs to get this excitement we had.'' Correction
Last week in this space, the quarterback at Principia College was misidentified: He is Jordan Poznick.